Former President Donald Trump was just trying to help. Instead, he just handed investigators more ammunition.
On Monday, Trump’s lawyers filed documents alleging that he “denies knowledge” —and does not even know enough “to form a belief” —about the way he allegedly slapped a 30-percent brand premium on some business properties in 2014.
But the very next day, Trump said the complete opposite when he issued a lengthy statement to counter news that his long-time outside accounting firm, Mazars USA, had suddenly ditched him. He took the opportunity to show off his supposed previous net worth of $ 5.7 billion in 2014 — and, more importantly, noted that it did not include the typical boost from the “enthusiasm” of the Trump brand.
On Wednesday, prosecutors contended in a letter that Trump can no longer play clueless; he had just revealed that he knows “exactly what OAG is investigating.”
“His answer is more than merely legally deficient: it plainly contradicts his public statements,” they wrote.
That self-own was compounded on Thursday, when a state judge ordered him to turn over evidence about shady real estate values in a case about the Trump Organization’s alleged bank and tax fraud. Trump’s incessant need to boast ended up revealing he had more evidence to turn over.
He said too much — at just the wrong time.
“We’m talking about a guy who’s so into the habit of shooting his mouth off. I think this is quite damaging, and also unusual. Usually people refer everything to their attorney, ”said Daniel L. Feldman, a former attorney at the AG’s office who now teaches at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
And now that New York State Judge Arthur F. Engoron issued an order on Thursday compelling Trump to turn over documents, the New York AG’s lawyers can specifically ask for the information they now know exists.
“What they have is a clear path to do is to say, ‘OK, give us the docs that support the statement you just made since you were obviously basing this on something,'” Feldman told The Daily Beast.
Although the Trump-sanctioned statement could end up exacerbating the ex-president’s legal heartburn, it was — ironically — crafted with care.
At least, it was afforded more care than your average Trump statement.
After news broke on Monday that Mazars dropped him, the former president and his staff were conspicuously silent on the topic. Trump, who usually spouts off as soon as he can, did not release a statement until a full day later — on Tuesday evening — when his spokespeople finally blasted out a typically baffling missive.
According to two people familiar with the matter, lawyers and financial data were consulted and reviewed during a protracted drafting process, with the former president’s staff taking Trump’s dictated message and adorning it with a shred of coherence.
“They took their time on this one. You need to be careful and cautious and thorough. You do not want to give your enemies anything to use against you or your client, and you want to have a clear strong message, ”one of the sources said.
Regardless, the quintessentially Trumpian boastfulness of Tuesday’s written statement may have been just enough to hand the twice-impeached former president’s “enemies” something new to wield.
“It seems somebody dropped the ball, though, does not it?” the person familiar with the situation asked, rhetorically.
The spotlight is now on Trump’s personal attorney in the case, Alina Habba, who signed off on the Trump court document that was contradicted by his statement. The suburban New Jersey lawyer nabbed the prominent role as the former president’s counsel when his team of nationally recognized attorneys fled last year.
Habba drew scrutiny during Thursday’s court hearing, however, when she delivered TV-ready speeches about politics — including a random and factually incorrect comment about Hillary Clinton spying on Trump — and had to be repeatedly castigated for making the novice mistake of interrupting the judge.
Trump would not have found himself in this position if he’d just turned over documents after getting the subpoena the New York AG’s office issued on Dec. 1, 2021.
But by fighting it for another two months and making additional statements shortly before the judge’s ruling, AG Leticia James can now ask for more recent paperwork related to his “statements of financial condition.”
In his judicial order on Thursday, Judge Engoron did not address Trump’s oversharing directly. But he did single out another Trump Organization statement about its accounting debacle.
While the Feb. 9 letter from Mazars clearly cast a cloud of suspicion over the Trump Organization’s books by noting that it was disavowing a decade’s worth of Trump’s personal financial statements, the Trump Organization spun that news with a statement claiming that, actually, the letter instead “renders… moot ”investigations because the letter“ confirms… Mazars’ work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards and principles. ”.
Never mind that Mazars said that to distance itself from its former client.
Engoron compared it to modern “alternative facts” and quoted the dangerous truth-reversal of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984noting how it stated: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”
“To proclaim that the Mazars’ red-flag warning that the Trump financial statements are unreliable suddenly renders the OAG’s longstanding investigation moot is as audacious as it is preposterous,” he wrote.